Anthony Munoz stepped out of the Bengals Ring of Honor after Tuesday's practice at training camp and the Greatest Left Tackle Who Ever Lived huddled with the offensive line at the invitation of line coach Frank Pollack.
Pollack also called in long-time Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, Munoz's left guard in Super Bowl XVI, and that was Pollack's point.
"If you know your football history and you know your Bengals history, you know who this is. The greatest," Pollack told his players, pointing to Munoz. "When they played together, the Bengals had the best offensive line and that's the standard we want to reach."
Munoz spoke about staying "teachable" and "coachable" and turned to Lapham and recalled how they helped each other when they played together for four seasons ("It's about trusting the guy next to you") and how playing next to Lapham was like playing next to a coach.
"Greatest athlete over 250 pounds that there ever was," Lapham said, motioning to Munoz. "Relief pitcher, third baseman for the USC national championship baseball team."
Lapham spoke, too, about playing together, balling his hand into a fist.
"The five components of an offensive line," Lapham told them. "Four fingers and a thumb. When you play together, it's a first."
When it's coming from two guys that have done what you want to do, it's not clichés. Just ask the Bengals current left tackle.
"It's nice to hear all the timeless offensive line things that never change," Jonah Williams said. "Domination. Consistently working together. All five guys are one unit.
He has the most credibility of pretty much anyone in the world to be saying that."
Williams, a human iPad, streams more video than Hulu and has seen enough NFL Films classics to have a pretty good handle on who's come before him, knows Munoz barely missed a game. (Fact check: He's right. Munoz played 185 of a possible 208 games in 13 seasons.)
"I think he is. Forget the Bengals biases," says Williams, when asked if he thinks Munoz is game's greatest left tackle. "I think he hardly missed any games. To play so long and so consistently, taking the Bengals to two Super Bowls, that's hard to argue with that. There have been some great ones, but I don't know how many have a 13-year resume at that level."
Munoz, at camp to prepare for next week's trip to Tampa as the Bengals preseason TV analyst, told them he recently found the USC playbook from his freshman year and what has changed? On the first page was just one word "Domination." On the second page was just a paragraph that, simply put, said the offensive line's job is to dominate and wear down the opposition by the end of the game.
"Honestly," Lapham said, "I was impressed with everybody's attention. They were definitely interested."
One person of interest was Cincinnati native Michael Jordan. The third-year guard has been listening to Munoz since as long as he can remember because he first saw him when he was watching "Sesame Street." He's met him a few times and they said hello after the huddle. Jordan couldn't actually believe he met him when he played in the All-American game in high school a few years ago ("Wow, I just met Anthony Munoz"), so he was definitely listening.
The moment also lends an ear to how Pollack views things. He told his guys that Jim McNally, the man whom coached Munoz and Lapham on those great lines, is one of his mentors. Pollack's first three seasons (1990-92) as a plug-and-play back-up guard for the 49ers were Munoz's last three as a legend.
"Anthony's a Hall-of-Famer and he's not down here every day, so Frank was going to take advantage of the situation," Lapham said. "He realizes when you're playing for a team, being aware what happened before you is not a bad thing. I think he probably can tell you the history of the 49ers, Houston and everywhere he's been. I think he's that kind of guy."
Munoz, scheduled to be inducted into the inaugural Ring of Honor next month, gave some terrific advice to guys he knows are all over their phones.
"You have to listen to only one guy. Your coach," said Munoz, pointing at Pollack. "Don't listen to all the stuff from the outside."
Pollack has yet to show them film of Munoz, but Williams has an idea it's going to happen soon.
"He assigns rookies to do reports," Williams said. "He may have a rookie compile some stuff."
PLAY OF THE DAY: DE Trey Hendrickson
It depends on your point of view after Tuesday's first day in full pads. Another outstanding day for the new-look defense. Or another curious display by an offense that just can't seem to get to get it going yet. Probably a little bit of both. Whatever it is, Hendrickson, of all people, the big-time pass rusher from the Saints, picked off quarterback Joe Burrow's last pass of the day on a zone drop.
But Hendrickson quickly looked at the tape after practice and reported that his opposite number, left end Sam Hubbard, had the sack before Burrow let it go. Hendrickson dropped about 10 yards into the middle and Burrow threw it right at him.
"The thing about it," Hendrickson said, "you don't know if I'm dropping or Sam is dropping."
While racking up 13.5 sacks in New Orleans, Hendrickson, according to Pro Football Focus, covered just seven passes while rushing 376 times.
"It's not that I can't do it, I just wasn't asked to do it," Hendrickson said.
With starting right tackle Riley Reiff (ankle) day-to-day and backup Fred Johnson (quad) out indefinitely but not long term, Hubbard (who, by the way, dropped 27 times to cover passes last season, was able to flex his muscles against rookie tackle D'Ante Smith in not only team, but one-on-one rushes.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Slot CB Mike Hilton
The secondary just keeps racking up the coveted Bengals.com Player of the Day. Strong safety Vonn Bell has two of them already.
Hilton set the tone early. After the defense shackled Burrow on nine of 20 passing Monday, head coach Zac Taylor ended the practice by challenging the offense to respond on Tuesday's first day of pads.
But instead it was the defense that stepped up. On the very first play of team, rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase dropped a slant. On the next snap Hilton walked in on a blitz to knock down a pass and Burrow would go on to compete just 10 of 20 passes in team and 7-on-7.
Hilton frustrated slot receiver Tyler Boyd much of the day, deflecting at least one ball over the middle. Middle linebacker Logan Wilson got a hand on a pass to Boyd over the middle, too, during a day Burrow couldn't get much downfield with soulmate Chase.
Early he sent Chase running down the left sideline and it was a pretty good deep throw, but Chase was plastered by starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie for an incompletion. On another sideline route, this one against backup cornerback Tony Brown, they appeared not to be on the same page with the pass zinging behind Chase out of bounds.
But the Bengals defensive backs just weren't picking on Chase. In seven-on-seven, Burrow didn't get enough on a fade to wide receiver Mike Thomas and it was broken up by Awuzie.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
SS Von Bell on taking away last year's finger-pointing:
"It is because guys bought in. That's what we were talking about earlier. You can talk to or coach up a guy and he don't take it personally. And that was the biggest thing from last year, everything was personal, everybody was pointing fingers. But no, it's on us now. We're really going to drive this thing day in and day out going to work every day. It starts in the weight room, starts in the film room and it starts on the field and just keep on doing that consistently and you'll get the outcome that you want."
SLANTS AND SCREENS; Another big play for second-year linebacker Markus Bailey in a camp of plenty of them. In seven-on-seven he got a hand on a Brandon Allen pass and tipped it for safety Ricardo Allen's interception … Starting cornerback Trae Waynes didn't work for the second straight day and it looks like he's day-to-day… The punt return candidates had a good day catching Kevin Huber's punts. Before he got warmed up, Huber hit some extremely shorts ones and Trent Taylor and Pooka Williams Jr., made good running catches.